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Darla Moore School of Business

Peace Corps volunteers come to Moore School to polish international experience

Nov. 3, 2016

As a new class of MBA students joins the Darla Moore School of Business, they bring with them many reasons for coming here: school location, potential experience, atmosphere. For three students in particular, the international aspect was the primary attraction. And, for them, it is not something they haven’t experienced yet. These three students — Caroline Burns, Mary Soike and Kevin Lehman — are coming to the Moore School after serving in the Peace Corps for two years.

For Burns, now a French track International MBA student, going into the Peace Corps was always part of her plan.

“Since middle school, my mom has called me her little Peace Corps volunteer,” she said. “I’ve always had an international curiosity.”

Burns worked in youth development in Swaziland doing everything from opening two libraries in her village to instructing teachers in psycho-social education so they could better handle students who were going through extreme trauma. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS of every country in the world.

For Soike and Lehman, on the other hand, the Peace Corps became the ideal choice after they graduated college.

“I didn’t want to have any regrets in life,” Soike said, speaking of her life goal to live abroad for a period of time. “You kind of have to do that when you’re younger and just be like, ‘I’m going to go do it,’ so I did it.”

Soike, a Spanish track International MBA student, was an environmental education volunteer in Mexico and helped facilitate community development projects through her work with the Mexican government’s national forestry service. She also taught environmental education in schools.

Lehman, a Portuguese track International MBA student, realized after finishing an abroad program in Costa Rica after his college graduation that living abroad was something he wanted to keep doing. He did everything he could to get a job in Costa Rica so he could stay; in the process, he discovered the Peace Corps. About nine months later, he was on his way to Mozambique to teach 11th grade math. In addition to teaching, he coached a high school lacrosse team and made hammocks out of capulana, a fabric typically worn by Mozambique women as sarongs.

Having grown up in the Columbia area, Burns was familiar with the reputation and rankings of the Moore School. She found the faculty to be personable and interested in her well being as she began the application process.

“I really felt like there was no pressure to come here and like they genuinely want their students to do well,” she said. “Although it’s a highly competitive program, there’s very much that family atmosphere.”

While Soike and Lehman come from farther away — Tennessee and Texas, respectively — both feel they have found the right fit for their needs in the International MBA program. Soike hopes to continue helping people after graduation, but from a professional standpoint, and thinks the Moore School will give her the finite skills to do so. Lehman found in his search for the right MBA program that the Moore School is the only college that offers the kind of international experience for what he wants.

“Every other program has, like, ‘field trips’ to other countries, but with this one you go and you live,” he said.

Now that the three of them are back in the U.S., they are eager to learn new business skills to complement the international knowledge they’ve already gained. Beyond living abroad through the International MBA program, Lehman plans to live in a South American country that speaks primarily Spanish but works with Brazil so he can use his Portuguese skills.

Burns and Soike, however, have no plans to live abroad, though neither has ruled it out entirely. Burns hopes the knowledge she gains through the Moore School will work well with the public health experience she gained through the Peace Corps and enable her to go into government service. Soike is interested in business operations in emerging markets, whether domestic or international.

By Madeleine Vath

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